Recent research has demonstrated how comment threads published beneath online news articles are being transformed into fluid interfaces between professional journalists, their work and their audiences. Today’s audience-members are not only able to respond to published narratives but to embellish and, potentially, contest them: by posting comments based on personal knowledge about an issue and even using eyewitness testimony to directly affirm or challenge a story’s details. Though often stylistically “messy,” such comment posts go beyond merely manifesting and magnifying news discourses—let alone simply reacting to them. Rather, as on social media, posters can publicly discuss and debate the meaning and significance of stories, with the more informed and assertive among them contributing content so significant that it reshapes the texts themselves. In so doing, such claims-makers and counter claims-makers become hybrids of journalists (news producers), audience-members (news consumers) and claims-makers (news sources). Drawing on the author’s recent empirical findings, this chapter argues that online news has entered a dynamic but disruptive new phase in which journalistic authority may increasingly be contested, as “audience-members” begin to compete with “reporters” for authorship of news narratives.
Part of the book: Social Media and Journalism